CC Outtake: Good Cars Come In 3s

three bmw 3 series

I spotted these three BMW 3-Serieses in an underground car park and something really struck me. I never thought I would say this but for once I think a Chris Bangle-designed Bimmer has aged better than its predecessor and successor. The E46 may look positively tiny next to its larger successors, and I remember really liking its styling at launch, but its jellybean lines are very much a product of their era. 

As for the Bangle-designed E90, it adds a few creases but retains the right proportions. Coming after the Bangle 5 and 7, the 3-Series was notable for being his most subtle design yet, relatively devoid of flame-surfacing and surface tension and all that other jazz. That being said, for all the criticism he received, many were quick to draw inspiration from his designs. After Bangle left, BMW was very quick to clean up its designs but ended up following the Audi design school of “same sausage, different lengths”; personally, I find the current 5-Series and outgoing 7-Series classically handsome but far too similar to each other visually. And now, the F30 3-Series has ushered in a new design element I don’t much care for: the conjoined headlights/grille, also present on the latest 7-Series. Not to mention, reviews of the F30 have indicated it’s a much less pure driving machine with inferior handling to its predecessor, although a more luxurious interior.

The E30 and E36 have always held such powerful enthusiast appeal, but what’s your favorite generation out of the E46, E90 and F30?